Thank you for shredding my work before my eyes

For many leaders, accountability means acknowledging when people fail to deliver on commitments or objectives.  It is just as important, and perhaps more powerful, to acknowledge people for delivering.  The definition of accountability does not focus solely on misses, yet I have seen many leaders apply it that way. Acknowledgment has tremendous implications for leaders.

Dan Ariely conducted an experiment where he paid people to take a test multiple times (for less money each time) in three scenarios.  In the first scenario, their work was acknowledged by a simple “uh-huh” before being asked to take the test again for less money.  In the second there was no acknowledgment of the work and in the third, the work was shredded upon receipt right in front of their eyes.  The study showed that ignoring somebody’s work had a similar effect as shredding their work before their eyes!  

Self-acknowledgment: When was the last time you told yourself something that you were grateful for about you?  We hold ourselves accountable for our shortcomings all the time.  Without taking time for self-acknowledgment you are essentially shredding your own good work on a daily basis.

Team acknowledgment: It is powerful for teams to have win rituals.  We ring a gong when we sign a new customer but many teams struggle to define how they win.  It is just as important to celebrate small customer renewals, minor feature launches and closing the books on time. It really matters when leaders acknowledge seemingly small wins, especially if it is not a team you manage.

Peer acknowledgment: At Mobify we start our operations meeting by having one person receive acknowledgment.  The person indicates what they would like acknowledgment on and each team member provides feedback.  When you are putting effort into something, it is powerful to understand what is working well.  You’ve likely already heard about what isn’t working.

Hold people accountable for helping you: Think of somebody who supported you in the last week but received no acknowledgment (ie: their work was shredded).  The good news is that all you need to do is say ‘uh-huh’ to improve.  That doesn’t even speak to work quality.  It is a simple acknowledgment that they did something at all. Visualize how powerful acknowledgment would be for that person.

What acknowledgment could you provide to yourself, a peer and a colleague today?


(originally posted at

Leave a Reply